FARGO, N.D. — Trey Lance returned to his college town this week for the first time as an NFL player. Lance came back to the area to take part in Carson Wentz’s charity softball game, which benefits his AO1 Foundation.
Lance, who did not play in the game, was among the most popular people to attend the event.
“It’s cool,” Lance said. “I joke around that I’d much rather have people like me than not like me. So it’s really cool to get back to Fargo. The support is second to none.”
Lance said the “coolest” part is seeing little kids wearing his No. 5 jersey — the same number he was issued as the No. 3 overall draft pick of the 49ers.
Lance is part of an impressive lineage of North Dakota State quarterbacks.
Wentz, now with the Indianapolis Colts, was the No. 2 overall pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016. Easton Stick followed Wentz, and became a fifth-round selection of the Los Angeles Chargers in 2019. Lance sat for one season behind Stick. He took over and was the best player in the FCS as a freshman in 2019.
After appearing in just one game in the fall of 2020 in a COVID-shortened season, Lance declared for the NFL Draft. The 49ers traded up from No. 12 overall to No. 3 to select Lance.
The 49ers’ offseason program wrapped up nearly three weeks ago, but Lance said he has continued to work out with some of his new teammates, including Deebo Samuel and Mohamed Sanu, in Southern California.
“It’s been awesome,” Lance said. “Those guys are a special group of guys and I feel very fortunate to be where I am. Those are special guys, so it’s hard not to (build chemistry).”
“I love the Bay Area,” Lance said. “I haven’t got to explore a whole lot. As far as the organization and football goes, it’s been great.”
North Dakota State must be doing something right to produce three straight NFL quarterbacks. The offense the school runs, along with the responsibilities placed on the quarterback position, are conducive to a smooth transition to the pros.
Few -- if any -- of the programs at larger schools can compete with the Bison's recent history of developing NFL-ready quarterbacks. NDSU plays in the second level of college football, the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
Lance said he owes a lot to those who came before him, beginning with Wentz, who was playing at an MVP level in just his second NFL season before sustaining a knee injury.
“Playing as well as he did early in his career definitely helped for people being able to accept the transition from FCS to the NFL,” Lance said.
Wentz has a lot to offer Lance because he knows many of the challenges he will face as a high draft pick. Wentz said he has shared his message with Lance for the past two years — since he realized the young player was destined for the NFL.
“There are going to be a million things pulling you in one direction, then the other direction, pressure, expectations, all these things,” Wentz said. “But I know Trey. He’s got a great head on his shoulders. He’s young, age-wise, but he’s very mature. I know he’s going to be just fine.
“He’s in a great situation. They have a great culture there in San Fran, a good coaching staff. So I know he’s going to do a great job, and I’m excited for him. I just keep telling him to be himself: ‘Don’t let any of those things change who you are, change your values, change your perspective on football. Just go play.’ ”